Distro and DE of Choice for New PC User

What is your distro and DE of choice for a new PC user by that I mean someone who’s never used a computer before?

I have a specific use-case, but I would like to hear your thoughts on the more general question as well. My grandpa will be inheriting my old work thinkpad and he’s never used a computer before, but he’s able to use his iphone and his ipad for various things. Obviously he’s not as comfortable as us, but he does not really run into issues using them. Grandma was always the one using the computer, but now it’s his turn. I was leaning towards Fedora and Gnome or KDE as they have quite a user-friendly interface and it’s easy to update and install packages graphically. Honestly he just needs to use a web browser and a PDF reader.

For a user like that I think almost any of them would work as long as they are setup properly. Here would be advice:

  • Setup desktop icons with all the applications you think they will use regularly. This will make it familiar to a phone/tablet user.
  • Don’t do anything crazy like install a tiling WM or something.
  • Use a distro that can update itself safely. Preferably something LTS so it doesn’t need upgrades very often.

In most cases, a user like you describe won’t even know the difference. For example, my wife has had KDE, Budgie and Gnome(with desktop icons and dash to panel). I asked her once which she prefers and she didn’t really even see them as different.

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MX Linux with Xfce

Linux Mint with Cinnamon (or Xfce)

Both are almost zero maintenance, hassle free and stable systems.

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what a conundrum. grandpa left all the computing to grandma so grandpa didn’t have to compute.
Certainly he looked over her shoulder on occasion or got used to some vernacular.
If she used Windows then I say don’t change anything.
In fact, my 2 cents answer is to introduce him to whatever she is/was using. Comfort zone thing. I’m looking at my two old ones and basing my answer on them.

yeah you can always teach an old dog new tricks (linux) but that might not be comfort zone. I realize you said you are asking a ‘general’ question so trying not to be presumptious.

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You didn’t ask these questions, but I would share a few more things I have learned supporting various family members on Linux over the last 5-7 years.

  • Don’t think about what you like when you are choosing. I made the mistake of starting my wife on an Arch-based distro. That was a huge mistake.
  • Choose something that is as easy for you to support as possible. Static release so updates can be installed seamlessly and LTS so there is a 3-5 years between version upgrades.
  • Preinstall everything they need.
  • Install browsers that are highly compatible and widely supported so they won’t get messages that their browser isn’t on some whitelist.
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I installed Debian Stable with KDE as the desktop environment on my uncle’s computer. He seems to be fine using it, and he’s pretty much tech illiterate apart from smartphones. I’ll recommend it highly.

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I agree but i would use the LMDE edition. :wink:

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Good thinking! She uses Windows, but I feel like having Windows 11 would give the same shock. Or as @dalto mentioned, he might not even notice the difference of his laptop being on Linux versus her Windows computer. Not having used Windows for 10 years, my tech support is pretty much ddg everything and explaining it.

I also made that mistake. I installed and arch-based distro to my aunt with a nice graphical package manager and an update broke everything then my cousin had to fix it.

Didn’t even know that was a thing! Definitely sounds better, I’ve experienced issues with Ubuntu packages before.

I might use that ChromeOS thing on x86_64 if it’s made progress. I have my Mom using Chromebooks and she loves how easy it is use and manage.

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First: I don’t like Ubuntu and would not use it on my computers, but I did install it for my dad some years ago, activated automatic updates, never heard any big complaints. He is only browsing the net and printing some documents and writing emails.

Every two years around Christmas I upgrade to the then current LTS release. No hassle.

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My two cents after distrohopping for years, I even distrohopped after I am settled on EndeavourOS and tried almost everything even BSD.

The most stable, least updates and most user friendly I found was MX Linux, KDE, defaults during installation.

It doesn’t update frequently and incredibly stable.

And let the desktop be folder view with icons for apps and maybe some pinned to the taskbar.

I would recommend it this way.

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Linux Mint.

'nuff sed.

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+1 for Mint. If the hardware is relatively old, the Xfce flavour might be the most fitting.

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I’d say go with something that has automatic updates, which also notify user of said updates and asks to restart. Or maybe even an automatic update during off hours. That’s what I loved about OSX. Just set it and forget it. Had very few issues over 20 years.

Also the UI needs to be intuitive and everything needs to be accessible through a GUI. People don’t like to mess with the terminal. Even I don’t and I’ve been messing around with Linux since early 2000s.

Needs to be stable, so go with the LTS kernel.

EndeavourOS 5th anniversary edition! :wink:

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I would choose a desktop manager with everything included.
For example : https://ubuntudde.com/, Linux Mint or Budgie.

I used to test DDE (aka Deepin) and Mint for 2 years each. They are simple to use, with a lot of applications included and a common UX. DDE looks more modern than Mint, but give it a try to appreciate !
I just compared Budgie and Gnome for several days, and there again I prefer Budgie UX as a clear desktop.

Finally, you’ve got to ask yourself if a touchscreen would be the best experience for your parents. In this case, ChromeOS may be the good-to-go solution as said andrewb:wink:

I do not see how “just using a browser and a PDF reader” can move a person from his iPad to a computer. I expect that most iPad owners will use a computer for more serious gaming and as a file server, at least initially.

I guess no distro is usable without knowledge of Linux fundamentals. I guess that the absence of prior computing experience is a huge advantage, the absolute majority of really apparently stupid deeds and questions I encountered were not really stupid but caused by attempts to apply prior experience that was unapplicable under the circumstances.

I would look through books on linux you have and compare them to online help of different distros. The winner, be it a book or online help, should determine the distro and the DE. You should pass a computer and point to the reference material.

EndeavourOS has excellent docs and Arch has excellent docs, but there are two of them and that can be confusing for a new user. If you feel you can explain that, why not EndeavourOS or even Arch? Maybe there is an excellent book on Fedora, then why not Fedora?

Once again, for a person who never received damage from Windows, most distros are functionally equivalent and the quality of the documentation matters the most.

Whenever I see a show, the most beautiful girl dancing is somehow assigned to an edge of the most distant row. Thus I believe that it is impossible to guess which DE a person will find most appealing. Just install all the distro offers, show how to switch, and two weeks later do the cleanup.